Tuesday, 27 May 2008


I'm on the U3 bus in West London, traveling from Harmondsworth to Uxbridge. It's half term, and at West Drayton we gained a group of four teenage girls who have distributed themselves amongst the back seats, which had previously been empty apart from me. The girls have noticeably altered the ambiance of the bus. One of them plays loud dance music on her phone while she and one of her friends sing along to the lyrics, even when those lyrics are sexually explicit and written from a male perspective.

No-one says anything to them. A young Indian guy occasionally turns to look at them with an expression of annoyance but this only makes them sing louder. The bus gradually becomes more crowded, but there are still plenty of seats at the back. Somehow people would rather stand in the aisle at the front.

Many bus companies now have stickers on the windows or higher up amongst the adverts, asking passengers to keep their music to themselves. This bus is no exception - a solitary sticker shows a cartoon girl and boy reaching an agreement. She won't play loud music if he doesn't eat smelly food. I don't think the girls have noticed it. However, this is not the only weapon in the bus's arsenal.

This is a hi-tech bus that announces the name of every stop as we arrive there. It turns out it can also announce other things as well. Every couple of minutes, presumably under the control of the driver, it begins to say -

'Please consider others and keep your music down.'

The only problem is that the girls take no notice of this either, although to give them the benefit of the doubt I'm not sure they even heard it. They were being rather loud after all.

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